Counselor’s Desk: Administering the medicine of compassion

As a long time nurse working any many different settings, I wondered what I was getting myself into when I took this job. Would I enjoy it as much? Would I be safe working with those that were mentally ill and/or struggling with addiction? Would I be able to deal with all the problems that arise when dealing with their struggles?

Then I thought about all the other settings that I had worked in. Was I really safe in those places and how many people had I come in contact with that were just like the clients I treat now and just didn’t know that they were struggling with mental illness and/or addiction? That’s the stigma-riddled mindset of a lot of people in society today. They don’t understand, so they would rather group those people together and not even recognize them as members of society. But I was shocked – as most people are – to learn there are a lot of people who are struggling with some form of mental illness or addiction or both yet are functioning members of society.

Some work full-time jobs, are husbands, wives, parents. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds. I had to change my own way of thinking when it came to working this job and become a different nurse altogether.

I have always been a compassionate nurse when it came to my patients, especially the elderly. But I had to move that compassion and understanding into a different group of clients. They can be difficult, even trying and exhausting sometimes. But their way of thinking is often different than someone who doesn’t struggle with mental illness or addiction. They can be struggling with something that seems so minor to someone that doesn’t have a mental illness, but their whole world could be falling apart.

If you know someone that has struggled with mental illness and/or addiction, please have a little more compassion towards that person and just don’t assume they should get over it. I’m still learning to have more compassion for their struggles and it isn’t easy, so I know it’s not easy for them to just get over it. So for the person out there that has never struggled, put yourself in their shoes and try to have some compassion for those struggling and don’t just brush them off. It might make a difference in their life.

Katie Barley is the Registered Nurse for Tombigbee Outreach in Demopolis. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.